Police say hotel homicide suspect acted alone

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 | 4:30 p.m. CST; updated 6:04 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — After speaking with several witnesses, Columbia police say they’ve concluded that a man arrested this weekend acted alone in the murder of Cynthia White, 55, at a Comfort Inn on Clark Lane.

Police arrested Dwight T. Hayes, 21, Sunday in connection with the murder. They also said they believe he is responsible for two other violent crimes earlier this month at hotels.

After his arrest, Hayes had said that he only acted as a “lookout” during the murder.

“Presently, we believe he is solely responsible for this homicide,” Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said. “We have no indication right now that there was anybody else involved.”

White was found around 6:15 Saturday morning with a gunshot wound to the head. She had been working the front desk at the Comfort Inn as the hotel’s general manager. Guests at the hotel, 2904 Clark Lane, had been trying to reach White at the front desk before police were called to the scene. Police said robbery was the motive in the crime.

During interviews after his arrest, Hayes told police that he was only a “lookout” during the murder and that a friend, who was identified only as “C.J.” in court documents, actually fired the gun.

After interviewing C.J. for several hours early Monday afternoon, Nelson said he provided several alibi witnesses who corroborated his statements that he wasn’t at the murder scene.

“He said he wasn’t in Columbia,” Nelson said. “He doesn’t even live in town.”

That makes Hayes the only suspect, and Nelson said he doesn’t expect any other arrests.

Police said a surveillance photo released to the media of a man who tried to force his way into a room at the Hampton Inn, 3410 Clark Lane, on Nov. 13 led to Hayes’ arrest. After Hayes’ arrest for that burglary, police obtained evidence, including a handgun and ammunition, from the house at 1812 McKee St., where Hayes was staying with relatives.

Police said that after his arrest, Hayes made incriminating statements about last weekend’s robbery and murder and another robbery.

The other robbery occurred Nov. 15 at the same hotel as the murder, though it was called Fairfield Inn at the time. Police said Hayes robbed a hotel clerk and then raped and sodomized her before stealing her car.

Hayes was being held Tuesday afternoon in the Boone County Jail on a $2.2 million cash-only bond. In addition to the second-degree murder charge, he was also charged with two counts of first-degree robbery, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, first-degree burglary and four counts of armed criminal action.

Hayes’ next scheduled court appearance is a Dec. 4 arraignment at the Boone County Courthouse.

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